Monday, March 24, 2014

Just an average Clasico!

Where do you start when trying to summarize El Clasiso?

Goals, controversial penalties, the usual Sergio Ramos red card, another Messi hat-trick, more broken records? It had it all.

Ronaldo and Ramos are already complaining about the refereeing, and I hope that doesn't become the focus of the debate, but you feel it may actually aid Real, who will now feel like everyone is against them and spur them on to the title. The decisions weren't horrible, they just happen at such speed, and the referee only gets one look. He could have done with some help from his assistants, but you have to applaud the fact he was brace enough to make the big decisions. Yes, we'd love him to be right every time, but calling for technology to intervene is stupid - and an argument that's not even worth having. Even with 10 replays, it's hard to know if Cristiano was fouled outside, if the foul continued inside, if it a red card etc. The beauty of the game is the human element - so enough of that discussion.

Messi is a beast, he's so cool under pressure. Ronaldo too is on another level - he didn't have his best game, but every time he gets on the ball the excitement level builds. Bale and Neymar on the other hand aren't at that level yet. The Welshman looked a little out of his depth. Angel Di Maria took the game to Barca in a way that Bale should be doing. If Karim Benzema could have converted more than 2 of the changes Di Maria made for him then Real would have been out of sight.

Neymar prefers a broken game I think. He preys on 1 on 1 match-ups and the ability to utilize the open spaces in behind. Barca play so slow that those opportunities don't always arise in the big games. Teams now let Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas try and pass them to death, knowing that they just need to contain Messi and they'll be ok (ok, no one can contain him, but they at least know the game plan!).

And so with Barca not really able to break Madrid down, it was left for one man to do it. Sergio Ramos. 19 red cards in La Liga, 180 yellows - impressive. But time and again he finds himself in positions he shouldn't be in. He's a fantastic player on some levels, but he commits reckless fouls and often finds himself as the last man. Foul there and quite often the red will follow. And he can't help himself. He just about nicked Neymar, but ultimately, he had no idea where the Brazilian was, and that's why he had to foul.

If Ramos stays on, Real win in my opinion. They were the better team, but Messi was the difference. Nothing phases him (apart from an Argentina shirt). The La Liga title is wide open again - and as much as we complain about Barca and Real meeting too often these days, there probably aren't two other teams in Europe that could have created the excitement of yesterday's game.